German animal-rights protesters target meat plant linked to cornavirus cluster

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German animal-rights activists protested outside a meat factory in North Rhine Westphalia on Saturday where hundreds of employees tested positive for the coronavirus last month, prompting local quarantines and shutdowns.

Activists climbed the roof of the slaughterhouse and processing plant in Toennies and unfurled a banner saying "Shut down Tierindustrie [animal industry]". Protesters also blocked a major access road and demanded changes to current meat industry practices.

Some 600,000 people in nearby Guetersloh were forced back into lockdown on June 23 after more than 1,500 workers at the plant tested positive for COVID-19.

Members of the group -- Gemeinsam gegen die Tierindustrie -- displayed placards saying "Stop exploiting humans, animals, nature," on the road outside Toennies, alluding to the high prevalence of infections among staff as well as to the slaughtering of animals under inhumane conditions.

Three protesters were detained and hand-cuffed and taken to a police station in Guetersloh, the group said on Twitter. More than 100 people took part in the demonstration, it said.

While Germany's management of the coronavirus crisis has been among the most successful in Europe, it has seen repeated outbreaks in slaughterhouses, whose employees are often migrants living in crowded company-provided accommodation.

"We have to get back control over our food production. Let's replace profit-driven meat conglomerates with democratically controlled, ecological and harm-free production sites," activist Maya Keller said in a statement.

(Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Mike Harrison)